The Life of James Arminius
Chapter 12, Part 1 of 3 (p. 278-283).
This biography of James Arminius was written in Latin by Caspar Brandt, published by Gerard Brandt in 1724, and translated to English by John Guthrie in 1854.
EVER-INCREASING CONTENTIONS, AMID WHICH THE HEALTH OF ARMINIUS GIVES WAY; FINAL CONFERENCE AT THE HAGUE IN AUGUST 1609: HIS LAST ILLNESS AND DEATH. A.D. 1609.
Meanwhile Arminius, by reason of incessant labours, assiduous studies, protracted sitting, and contests recurring without any intermission, had contracted hypochondriacal affections, which ripened at length into obstinate disease. This distemper, which had very long been latent in his internal parts, broke out with special violence on the 7th of February, in the following year. His members were affected by internal languor, and his stomach utterly debilitated; so much so, that his medical attendants at once saw it to be necessary to subject him to slow and cautious treatment. But although, at the commencement of the attack, the sufferer could scarcely drag his body along, nevertheless, afterwards, during some favourable intervals, he regained his vigour of mind, and intermitted nothing, as far as his infirm health would permit, of his readings, disputations, and other duties of his calling; nor was he ever neglectful of his own cause. Of this he gave brilliant evidence in a certain disputation which he publicly held a few months after, on the 25th July, Concerning the Call of Man to Salvation. On this occasion, Arminius acted a very spirited part; and in eloquent terms not only denied that irresistible and necessitating force which some of the Reformed represent God as exerting in the conversion of men, but further proceeded to prove that the Divine call turns on this, either that God supplies, or is ready to bestow, the power to perform that to which, in his call, he invites mankind. He further added, 'that he neither could, nor dared, to define the mode which the Holy Spirit employs in the conversion and regeneration of men. If any one will venture to do so, on him devolves the burden of proof. For himself, he could say in what manner conversion did not take place, but he could not say in what manner it did; for this only He knows who searches the deep things of God.' To this it was objected that there was a certain kind of grace by which men are infallibly converted, and from this it was directly argued that conversion was necessitated; in answer to which, Arminius took occasion to discourse at some length on what the schoolmen call, though very improperly, the necessity of infallibility; and added, 'that the scholastics were not to him the standard of speech, or of faith, seeing that they began to exist only when Antichrist was in course of being revealed, and that their theology had not made way until the true and apostolic theology had been driven into exile.'
After a period of nearly two whole hours had been lengthened out by two opponents, a certain Papist, who passed off his name as Adrian Smetius, and whom some took for a priest, others for a Jesuit, boldly descended into the arena against Arminius, and assailed his opinion on the point in question with a variety of arguments. While Arminius was ever and anon replying to these with prompt and collected mind, Gomarus assumed various colours on the occasion; and that he might not present the appearance of a merely passive listener, he varied his gestures now and then; at one time taking notes; at another whispering something into the ear of Everard Vorstius, Professor of medicine, who sat next him; now casting his eyes over the audience, which was very large; and now muttering something between his lips. Nay, he looked as if he felt an intense desire to contradict the things advanced in the course of the disputation, but repressed himself; — after such a fashion, however, that these, or similar words, fell from him in the overflow of his indignation, — What impudence is this? Moreover, after the disputation had come to a close, he had scarcely reached the hall door, when he broke out in the words: The reins have been remarkably well loosened for the Papacy this day. Directly after, in like manner, making up to Arminius, he exclaimed in the presence and hearing of the Jesuit, 'that he had never, in the Academy, listened to such statements and disputations, by which the door was thrown so widely open to Popery.' Arminius replied, 'that he had given satisfaction to his own conscience, and denied that what he had advanced made anything at all in favour of Popery.' Gomarus forthwith rejoined 'that he would refute these things, and that too in public.' Arminius: 'If anything be said which is opposed to my conscience, I promise you that I, in my turn, will openly gainsay it.' Gomarus: 'I shall not be wanting in my duty to the cause.' Arminius: 'Neither shall I be wanting, I confidently trust. But let us test each other in due time, and to me it is certain that the opinion of an irresistible force will be found repugnant alike to the Sacred Scripture, to antiquity, and to our Confession and Catechism.' [Vide his de hac disput. Epist. Borrii ad Epist. 30 Julii script. inter Epist. Eccles.].
After holding this disputation, he repaired to Oudewater with the view of recruiting his health; and there, on the very night which followed the debate just narrated, he was seized with a most violent paroxysm, which once more shattered his strength, and struck alarm into the minds of all who enjoyed his care and his intimacy. Simon Episcopius, in particular, who had by this time gone to Franeker, mainly for the sake of hearing the lectures of Drusius, felt very deeply affected by the adverse health of his great Preceptor (whom he was wont to address by the name of father), as these words to Arminius abundantly testify:—
'Reverend Doctor and esteemed Father:— Although I have not written you since my departure, I trust you will attribute this, not to any forgetfulness of you, or supine and ungrateful indifference to your claims, but partly to my assurance of the peculiar affection which I have very forcibly and confidently flattered myself you cherish towards me, and partly, and very principally, to my desire not to be officiously troublesome to you, already too much harassed; especially considering that over and above your serious and grave occupations, which, by a universal and simultaneous rush, are now, I well know, accumulating upon your head, you are ever and anon distracted by the oft-recurring agonies of an obstinate disease. In these circumstances, not having the boldness to address you, nor the ability to cheer and refresh you, I deemed it enough to convey to you my grateful remembrance, and the frequent expression of my affection, through those to whom I occasionally wrote. How I wish, Reverend Sir!— and O that God might grant,—that it may be permitted us to have a joyous remembrance of you in this truly abandoned age, to which God appears to have given promise of some remedy through your instrumentality. Would that it may not prove to have been promise merely! For how stands the case? Alas! amid our anxious longings, and repeated attempts to brace up our minds to the confidence of hope, the only intelligence we receive is that your disease has not yet abated, but holds obstinately on, and that it is irritated by the malignant and choleric conduct of certain parties which causes it to relapse with increased severity. For my part, if you will only concede to me the capability of weighing your circumstances with some measure of justice, and estimating, in some sort, at once the utility and the necessity of your prelections, you need be at no loss to imagine how deeply I am distressed by the present visitation. Ungrateful should I be were any day to pass over my head which did not, at frequent intervals, remind and admonish me of your disease, — a consideration, in truth, which so afflicts me from day to day, that, along with it, a sort of sympathetic participation of your malady ever affects and invades me. Would to God this went so far, that some alleviation or solace might thence redound to you! But perhaps it may not seem good to our God to bless any longer through your instrumentality this unwilling, ungrateful, and refractory world, which does not choose to know the things that make for its peace, or to recognise the tune of its visitation.' [Epist. Eccles. pag. 298.].
6 years ago